Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ivan DeJesús: Pittsburgh's Junior

Ivan DeJesús, 25, is the newest Bucco, and if his name sounds familiar to the older fans, it's only because it should. He's the son of Ivan DeJesús, Sr, a shortstop who spent 15 years (1974-88) in the majors, 13 in the NL. Junior was only three years old when his dad retired as a player, but got to soak up plenty of baseball vibes with Senior, who has been coaching and managing since, even scoring his son a gig as batboy.

Junior was born in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, and went to high school at American Military Academy. He was drafted in the second round (51st overall) of the 2005 draft by the Dodgers and inked with a $675K bonus as an 18 year old.

He signed on early enough to play 53 games between the GCL Dodgers and the Ogden Raptors of the Pioneer Baseball League, both short-season rookie divisions, and hit .290. Like his dad, he was a shortstop.

In 2006, he advanced to the Low A Sally League with the Columbus Catfish. DeJesús hit .277 and stole 16 bases, but for the second year his slugging % was lower than his OBP, as he showed just occasional gap power. Still, Baseball America had him as the Dodgers’ sixth best prospect and LA's best defensive infielder after the campaign and showed enough for another promotion.

DeJesús moved up to High A San Bernardino's Inland Empire 66er's squad of the California League in 2007. He hit .287 and even banged out 22 doubles while walking at an 11% rate. At the end of the year, he was rated as the #12 Dodger prospect by and #13 by Baseball America

Junior continued moving up a step at a time, which is a pretty fast track for a high-school draftee, now with the Jacksonville Suns of the Class AA Southern League. DeJesús had a breakout season, batting .324 with a .419 OBP and .423 slugging %, ending the campaign with a 23 game hitting streak.

He was selected as Southern League All-Star and played in the 2008 All-Star Futures Game. DeJesús was selected to the Baseball America Minor League All-Star Second Team as a second baseman and their #6 Dodger prospect. The Dodgers named him their 2008 Minor League Player of the Year.

To keep his roll going, DeJesús played in the 2008 Arizona Fall League and was chosen as a Rising Star, and followed that with a stint in the Puerto Rican Winter League. His glove, line drive contact and ability to draw walks was getting him on the radar screens.

The Dodgers gave him a non-roster invite to camp during 2009 spring training after his big year, but that may not have been such a blessing. Just as his star was on the rise, DeJesús broke his left leg in a home plate collision during an exhibition game and had a rod inserted in his tibia. He missed virtually the entire year, getting into four rookie rehab games at the end of the season.

In 2010, he went off to the Class AAA Albuquerque Isotopes of the Pacific Coast League. DeJesús was flipped in the infield, getting a lot more time at second than short, a concession to his leg. He still hit pretty well, banging the ball around at a .296 rate, with the caveat of being in the hitter heaven of the PCL. DeJesús wasn't nearly as disciplined at the dish, earning just 32 free passes, not quite a 6% rate. Still, it was a decent enough bounce back after a big-time injury.

He broke 2011 camp with the Dodgers, but got into just 17 games, hitting .188 with 11 whiffs in 35 at-bats before being sent down. DeJesús did get to share the field briefly with his dad, though, on April 22nd at Wrigley Field. He came on as a defensive sub late in the game against the Cubs, while Senior was coaching for Chicago from the third base box.

DeJesús was solid again at Albuquerque, hitting .310 and getting his walk rate back up to 10%. Again, most of his field time was at second - he played that position exclusively in LA - and it was looking like he wasn't going to recover enough range to return to short, at least on a full time basis. He was named to's Dodger's Organization All-Star team, but the fact that he wasn't called up in September was a better indicator of where he stacked up on the LA depth charts.

When you're hot, you're hot. The infielder suffered a torn oblique muscle in his side while taking a cut during a spring training game in 2012 and didn't rejoin the team until May. He was a seldom-used utility guy, playing second and third while yo-yo'ing back and forth from Albuquerque. DeJesús hit OK, with a .273 BA in LA in just 33 PA and .295 for the Isotopes.

He was also involved in a bit of history. On June 1st, DeJesús was penciled in by Don Mattingly along with Tony Gwynn, Jr., Jerry Hairston, Jr., Dee (Tom) Gordon and Scott (Andy) Van Slyke, all sons of MLB players. In fact, the infield was entirely filled by legacies: 1B Van Slyke, 2B Hairston, SS Gordon and 3B DeJesús. Both were major league firsts.

On August 25th, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox along with James Loney, Allen Webster, Jerry Sands and Rubby De La Rosa for Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Nick Punto and $11M as part of Beantown's great salary dump of 2012.

After the season, the Red Sox DFA'ed him and DeJesús cleared waivers. The Pirates officially got him yesterday, along with RHP Mark Melancon, OF Jerry Sands and RHP Stolmy Pimentel for Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt. He has no options remaining, though not on the 40 man roster, and can become a minor league FA after the season.

You can mark his prospect status by before-and-after his broken leg. DeJesús now is a second/third baseman with a bit less than average speed, a spray hitter who shows some discipline in the minors but not much in very limited opportunities in the show (33% K rate) and not much of a base stealer anymore. The Puerto Rican projects as a utility guy at the major league level, although the jury is still out on whether he's destined to be just another AAAA player.

And there's the rub. The Bucs have reserve infielders Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, and Chase d'Arnaud on the 40 man roster already; DeJesús will have to beat one or two of them out to claim a spot out of camp. Unless the Pirates are really disenchanted with their bench (which could be entirely possible) and plan to give DeJesús a long look, he's destined for Indianapolis, where he'll join Anderson Hernandez as upper-level insurance up the middle.

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